ABC of Safety in the Biological Sciences






Medical laboratories are potentially amongst the most hazardous of all workplaces. Occupational health, welfare and safety legislation in many countries1-6 places the onus of responsibility for safety on local managers and department heads, but this does not give the individual worker license for ignorance and unsafe laboratory practice. Legislation also specifies that individual workers are responsible for not endangering the safety of their co-workers.

Legislation invariably requires the appointment of a health and safety officer to a designated area of responsibility. Duties and responsibilities include the requirement to identify hazards and hazardous operations within the workplace and make recommendations for improvements.3,7,8 Once identified, the removal of the hazard becomes the responsibility of a line manager.7 Some legislation provides for pecuniary penalties and even imprisonment for those found negligent of their defined responsibilities.1

Duties for a safety officer include:

  • identification of local hazards

  • maintenance of safe practices in the defined area of responsibility

  • production of a safety manual

  • lectures to designated workgroups on aspects of safety including first aid

  • development of a safety training programme including first aid

  • safety inspections of the workplace

  • correlation of incident reports

If there is any doubt about any aspect of safety in your working environment - ask. If the answer is unsatisfactory local government agencies and/or unions will often have the correct answer and will give support to remedy an unsafe situation.




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